RICHMOND, Va. – An outpouring of love was sketched on the sidewalks surrounding what remains of Fox Elementary School in Richmond’s Fan District this weekend.
The 358 students enrolled at the school were not alone in their grief Saturday as people came by the school to view the damage and show their support.
A chain link fence was installed around the shell of what was a 60,000-square-foot haven for learning.
One mother who brought her children to see what was left of their school said her little ones were distraught.
"They cried. They love their school — their classmates especially," she said as she snapped a photo of her three boys in their Team Fox t-shirts.
One girl chalking a design on the sidewalk said that her friend was relieved at least the playground was spared.
A boy reflecting on the loss of the 110-year-old building worried about what would happen to the school's animal inhabitants.
“These cute little swallow birds that would fly around the school and they would nest in the rafters of the school,” he said. “And I think it's so sad because their home was basically destroyed.”
Administrators weigh 'couple of options'
Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras asked the community to pray for Fox Elementary families, students and staff. [RELATED: People can donate to impacted students and staff at the Fox Elementary Fire Response fund]
The school will be closed Monday and Tuesday before shifting to virtual learning.
"We want to give everyone time to process the events and make the necessary academic preparations," Kamras said.
School leaders are working to figure out which RPS property the Fox community will call home as the damage to the historic building is assessed.
"We are looking at a couple of options," Kamras said. "One of those is Clark Springs Elementary, which we sometimes use as swing space. We're exploring the feasibility of that right now, but because it's going to take a little bit of time, we're switching over to virtual in the meantime."
Principal Daniela Jacobs said school spirit prevails.
"This building has stood for 110 years, educating thousands and thousands of youngsters in our community," Jacobs said. "It's not about a building. The Fox spirit lives within each and every one of us in this community. We will manage this together."
Property records indicate the structure is valued at close to $4 million. RPS officials said the building was insured. It is unknown if the school will be rebuilt on its current site.
Fox Elementary suffers 'catastrophic damage' in fire
An alarm went off at Fox Elementary, along the 2300 Hanover Avenue, just before 9:30 p.m. Friday, according to dispatch records.
Richmond Fire Chief Melvin Carter told reporters the department is not certain if it was a fire alarm, a motion detector, or a burglar alarm. He said they are still investigating what type of alarm was triggered.
The chief said fire crews responded, gained access to the building by letting themselves in and searched the building.
He said they stayed and investigated for nearly 42 minutes, which means they left around 10:10 p.m., and did not notice any fire or smoke while there.
Carter said they were then dispatched back to the building for a fire call at 10:40 p.m. and found the structure on fire.
"Once on scene, they encountered heavy smoke and flames coming from the top floor above the main entrance. The fire was quickly spreading across the top of the structure," Richmond Fire spokesperson Amy Vu wrote in an email."At approximately 11:09 p.m., parts of the roof began to collapse, so all crews were evacuated from the interior."
The fire was marked under control at about 2:44 a.m.
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